Time machine

Consider what life was like 100 years ago.

World War I was engulfing Europe. It was the first “modern” war, and it was ultimately tragically pointless and horrifying. (Go listen to the epic podcast series, Blueprint for Armageddon, in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.)

The U.S. population in 1915 was one-third what it is now. The world population was one-fourth what it is now.

Women in the U.S. did not have the right to vote. Racial segregation was entrenched in the south. The Civil Rights Act was almost fifty years away.

There were few rights for workers and not much of a safety net for anyone for health care or retirement.

Air travel was for daredevils. Space travel was just a sci-fi dream. More vehicles were powered by animals than by engines. Radio was the chief source of home entertainment, and silent films were the only option at theaters.

If you had a time machine and brought someone from 1915 to 2015, imagine how astounded they would be by our world—our technology and medicine; the discoveries about the universe that have shown us just how incomprehensibly massive it is and how small we are; and how far we have progressed in human rights in a century.

And how are we worse off now compared to then? There was no obesity epidemic, no addiction to electronic devices, and no chance for nuclear disaster. I’m sure there are many ways life was better a century ago, but I wouldn’t want to swap places with that generation.

Now, imagine you could go in a time machine to the year 2115. How backwards might our current generation look one hundred years from now? What have we got completely wrong? How inhumane and small-minded will we look to our great-grandchildren? What assumptions are we taking for granted now that will seem laughable in the very near future?

We can’t assume a positive trajectory of progress. There is certainly a chance that we could very well end up going backwards and falling into another “dark ages” if we survive for another century, but let’s be optimistic.

How can taking the long view open us to possibilities and ways of thinking that make an even brighter future more likely? What would be an ideal world in 2115, and what can we do in 2015 to point in that direction?

That idea of yours that seems daring right now, or a little too farfetched to take seriously, might just seem so obvious a generation from now. It’s the crazy ones who craft the future the rest of us can’t even imagine. 

Dream big. Dream far.